Breaking News:

“Anglers have notoriously selective memories…

“Anglers have notoriously selective memories…” - Steve (Starlo) Starling

Fishing is hard!

There, I’ve said it! I reckon it’s something we should all probably hear — and say out loud — a bit more often than most of us actually do, especially in this brave new world of social media and its insidious spread of FOMO (fear of missing out), where almost every “look at me!” post and video tells of sunny days, calm seas, prize catches and happy memories.

Don’t get me wrong. Fishing isn’t always hard. If it was, we probably wouldn’t stick with it. Fortunately, we’ve all enjoyed those magical glory days, when everything works and the fish seem to be queued up waiting for a chance to jump onto our lines. But be honest: how common are they?

Some anglers are so masochistic that they willingly choose to make a hard thing harder, often by choosing the most difficult methods available!

Anglers have notoriously selective memories.

We vividly recall the red-letter days, while our abject failures tend to vanish quickly into the fog of history, and eventually slip off our cerebral hard drives completely, never to be spoken of again.

Interestingly, this “recollection selectivity” is the bane of bean-counting statisticians seeking to quantify recreational fishing effort and harvest. Almost without exception, fishers like you and me overestimate our catches and underestimate the effort involved in achieving them when we’re talking to our mates — or responding to surveys.

The Aussie red emperor is closely related to America’s red snapper — a species now very tightly managed, thanks largely to the selective memory of anglers.

At first glance, this selective memory thing sounds like a fairly harmless fisherman’s foible… Even a little bit cute. But in reality, it can come back to bite us all on the metaphorical bum.

When these overly-optimistic recollections are collected and collated en masse by statisticians, and then used to craft management policies, the results can be unexpected and alarming. As a graphic example of this, rec’ fishers in the Gulf states of the USA nowadays face extremely tight seasonal, bag and size limits on their highly-prized red snapper (similar to our red emperor). Most agree that the current limits are way over-the-top and unnecessarily restrictive. But the fact is, they were based on catch rates extrapolated from surveys of anglers… almost all of whom apparently over-stated their successes on these fish. Optimism, it seems, has its down-sides!

Wonderful as it is, “that movie” has an awful lot to answer for!

Other examples are arguably less dire, but just as illuminating. Back in 1992, when Robert Redford’s wonderful movie “A River Runs Through It” first came out, there was a global surge of interest in fly fishing, and a major spike in sales of everything from waders to expensive graphite fly rods. Ironically, this was followed across the next couple of years by a similarly large uptick in the appearance of those very same items on various second-hand markets — many of them carrying revealing descriptions such as “hardly used” or “used once”.

It seems that a lot of those budding Brad Pitts who “discovered” the romance of fly fishing through “that movie” soon learnt it was harder and much more frustrating than it looked up there on the silver screen. Winds blow, bugs bite, mud sucks at boots, leaders tangle, flies whack into ears, and fish frequently refuse to play our silly games.

Winds blow, bugs bite, mud sucks at boots… Life is rarely as rosy as it looked in the brochure!

I try my best to keep it real (as implied by the title of my YouTube channel) — but in truth, I’m frequently as guilty as any other angler of gilding the lily and slipping on those rose-tinted spectacles. Fact is, few viewers want to watch long, boring videos in which no fish are caught, or to see endless pretty sunrise and sunset posts on Instagram, in place of eye-catching grip-and-grin fish pics.

We’re all more than capable of mouthing the usual platitudes about it being “a pleasure just being here”, or claiming that “catching a fish is a bonus”, as well as my all-time favourite: “that’s why it’s called fishing, not catching”. And while there’s a small grain of reality in those well-worn homilies, there’s also a degree of self-deception. Because, let’s face it, we primarily go fishing to catch fish! Otherwise, it’s just a nice walk on the beach or along a river bank while carrying an awkwardly long stick.

It’s not all beer and skittles!

In my opinion, there’s much to be said for embracing the truth about fishing, and accepting that it will frequently frustrate and foil us. For me, this acceptance simply magnifies the sheer, unbridled joy of the good times, and the heartfelt celebration of our occasional victories. The best most of us can honestly hope for — and strive towards — is that those events will come along just often enough to keep us hooked.

Tight Lines,

Steve (Starlo) Starling is an Australian sports fishing writer and television personality who has appeared in many of Rex Hunt’s Fishing Adventure programs on the Seven Network.

He has published twenty books on the subject of angling, as well as thousands of magazine articles.

Starlo has scripted and presented many instructional videos and DVDs, and been a Researcher and on-screen presenter for a number of Australian angling and outdoor television programs.

Follow Starlo Gets Reel on Youtube for some of the best, educational and most entertaining fishing viewing on-line.

Click on the banner below for a direct link to the Channel.